DENVER — Police Chief Ron Thomas said an armed man shot and injured by Denver police officers in late November made a “very quick movement behind his back” just before the shooting and after officers tried for several minutes to de-escalate the situation.
The shooting happened in the early afternoon hours on November 27 in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 800 block of S. Oneida Street. Thomas said on the scene that day that officers were initially drawn to the man because “loud music was emanating from inside the truck.”
The man, identified as 32-year-old Zachary Yates by Denver police, was also seen throwing items from inside a truck to a nearby dumpster, Chief Thomas had previously said.
On Thursday, the Denver Police Department held a briefing to outline a sequence of events that led to the shooting on the same day it released body-worn camera footage from two of the responding officers. The story below will detail a timeline of the officers’ actions from the body cam video and include statements from the man who identified himself as a veteran and “suicidal.”
The video showed at least two DPD officers arriving on the scene first and for over 4 minutes having a conversation and ordering commands before the man moved his right arm toward his back and two officers fired their weapons.
“While the officer was speaking to the subject, he abruptly reached to his back waistband area where the firearm was located. Two additional officers who were at the location observed this action and were specifically concerned that the subject would retrieve the firearm and shoot at the officers,” said Matt Clark, Commander of the Denver Police Department. “These two officers discharged their duty handguns at the subject striking him.”
After the two officers fired 5 rounds, Clark said police moved to render aid to Yates and recovered a Glock 17 – 9mm handgun.
“The firearm was loaded with one round in the chamber and 16 rounds in the magazine,” said Clark, adding the magazine could hold 17 rounds.
Yates was treated for two gunshot wounds, described by police as an injury to the neck and a graze wound, then released from the hospital. Clark said Yates was charged with unlawful carrying of a firearm and possessing a high-capacity magazine “that can hold up more than 15 rounds which is prohibited by ordinance.”
Chief Thomas said during the press briefing that the officers’ attention was drawn to the man because of “other reasons but once they saw that he had that firearm I think it was wise for them to make safe contact, try to recover that firearm, and then investigate further exactly what was going on.”
He added: “It wasn’t the fact that he possessed the weapon it was the fact that it was openly displayed,” said Thomas. “That is illegal.”
Body-worn camera video starts with the officer leaving the unit with his weapon drawn, pointed at the man who is turned with his back pointed toward the officer.
In the footage, can see the other officer already outside of his police vehicle, standing to the front and left, his weapon also drawn and pointed at the man. An officer says “Don’t move” then seconds later the officer in this footage shouts “Denver police, drop the gun”
Yates, whose face was blurred in the video provided by DPD, is seen standing several feet outside the driver’s side of his truck standing beside a large cardboard box and near a large dumpster.
A couple of seconds later, the officer yells “Don’t go for the gun” and “Do not move.”
Yates turns and faces the officers.
He is ordered to place his “hands on your head” and then raises his right arm out to his side and his left hand up to his face.
Yates is again ordered to place his hands on his head.
While difficult to hear in the footage, it appears he says “Go ahead and shoot me.”
A couple more seconds pass and Yates keeps his hands out to the side of his body and the officer again references the weapon “You have a gun in your back waistband” to which he appears to say “Is that illegal?” and both officers replied “yes.”
Yates says something back to the officers, which was not clear on the footage and is ordered to place his hands on his head.
Yates appears to ask “How is a gun in a waistband illegal?” is ordered again to place his hands on his head and references “conceal and carry.”
Several more seconds pass and Yates says something to the officers, his hands still extended out by his side and the officer replies “Open carry is illegal in Denver.”
As the officers continue to yell “hands on top of your head” the man drops his right hand down to his side and raises his right arm back toward his head and is also ordered to drop to his knees.
While difficult to discern, at about one minute into the video, Yates appears to say “I’m a suicidal, disabled veteran” and moves his hands up and down and an officer says “Okay, just follow commands and we’ll be done with this.”
He is asked five times by the officer “You said you’re a veteran?” and the man says “Yes” to which the officer asks “What branch” and the man replies “Navy.”
The officers asked Yates what he did in the Navy and it was unclear what he said in return before the officer said “I’m just trying to talk to you dude, I don’t want to shoot you, but you have a gun in your rear waistband and this area is known for high gang activity.”
Yates said something in return and the officer replied “I don’t want you touching it” and was again ordered to comply with commands.
During this time, music could be heard blaring from the truck.
With his hands clasped together, Yates said “You have no idea how bad it is, I’ve already been wrongly investigated by you guys before I don’t trust you at all.”
An officer responded “Dude, I don’t want to arrest you, I’m wondering why you got a gun in your back waistband.”
“I got wrongly in prison for a girl who cut herself with a knife, you can look it up with my plates,” he appears to say on the footage then adding “I’ve been doing this before you guys betrayed me.”
“I’m not trying to betray you, those were different cops dude,” replied an officer to which Yates said, “It doesn’t matter, I can’t trust you guys at all.”
The officer answered “I’m sorry you can’t trust us” and “I’m sorry you feel betrayed” and the man said something to the effect of you have “guns on me” and “Wouldn’t pull a gun on anybody.”
The officer said “You have it open, you have it open in a high crime area” and again told the man he wanted to put his hands on his head.
The officer said, “You have guns on you.”
During this time, one officer is seen to the front of the man, and the other officer is seen to the man’s right side. While two DPD officers initially responded to the call, investigators said at least 5 officers eventually responded to the call as it unfolded.
“I don’t have a gun on me” Yates appeared to say to which the officer replied “I don’t care if you have a gun on you” and said, “I have had a bunch of people who don’t have guns on me who end up trying to shoot me.”
The man then said “The constitution allows me to carry anyway” and the officer replied, “Colorado is not a constitutional carry state.”
Yates appeared to reply “if you want to shoot me, go ahead” to which the officer said, “I don’t want to shoot you, what I want you to do is put your hands on your head and get on your knees.”
At this point, around 3:17 into the footage, the man said “I’m not going to do that whole thing again” then added “I went through eight months of GPS” followed by an expletive then “I had to pay for” before being seen becoming more agitated in the video.
The officer asked the man for his name to which he replied “Citizen with rights” and then answered “Zachary” followed by a last name.
“Zachary, look, if it’s just the gun, open carry, it’s not a big deal,” said the officer and the man replied, “That’s what they always say.”
The officer said “I’m not going to shoot you dude” and the man appeared to reply “Please” and the officer again repeated he didn’t want to shoot then gave his name. “Look, my name is Marty, my first name is Marty, okay?”
The officer again asked the man to comply with commands stating “If it’s just the gun and there’s nothing else, it’s just, I’m going to inform you you can’t do that and then we’re all good” to which Yates replied “I don’t want to be in cuffs again.”
The officer then said “I won’t put you in cuffs” and the man, his hands crossed in front, replied “I’ll put it away” and the officer answered, “no, I don’t want you touching it.”
The officer again repeated he wouldn’t put the man in cuffs to which Yates replied “People said that before I got taken out of handcuffs after they listened to my story, they talked to the district attorney, wasn’t there, the cops knew I was innocent.”
The officer answered “Was it in Denver?” and the man replied, “They still put me in jail.”
Denver police shoot man with handgun in waistband after he “made a threatening motion”
It was at that moment the body-worn camera footage captured Yates moving his right arm and hand toward his back and five shots ring out before he is seen dropping to the ground.
After a few seconds, police run toward Yates and roll him over and one officer can be heard shouting “Get the gun.”
During Thursday’s press conference, police showed a still image from the body cam footage showing the Glock firearm found on Yates.
In the briefing, Denver7 anchor Micah Smith asked DPD Chef Thomas concerning Yates’ comments in the video about being a “suicidal, disabled veteran” and if he believed officers followed training when encountering someone in potential mental health distress.
“I believe that their actions were in line with training. I think there was a significant attempt, a four-and-a-half minute attempt to de-escalate, to establish a rapport with him. I think you hear an officer asking about military service,” said Chief Thomas. “I think they were really trying to connect with him and get him to comply and to understand that they are not a threat to him, they just need him to safely comply with their directions and then he all of a sudden makes that sudden movement that puts everybody I think at risk.”
The names of the officers involved were not released and the two who fired their weapons remained on modified duty as DPD runs its officer-involved shooting protocols which also means the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Bureau of Investigation continue to conduct a joint investigation into the actions of the officers.
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